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Bismarck and Prinz Eugen

Written by Sakhal


The 18th May 1941, a combat group formed by two splendid and modern warships, the battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, departed from the military port of Gotehafen to start the Operation Rheinubung, a raid against the British supply lines in the Atlantic. In that moment, the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen were the pride of the new Nazi Germany, powerful and confident, albeit excessively. Back then nobody thought that for the Bismarck this would be her last mission. A week later, of the superb battleship only a pile of scrap and few dozens of mariners would remain. Despite the encrypted order prohibiting the navigation to any military or civilian ship in wide sectors of the Baltic Sea, another encrypted message arrived to the British Admiralty, immediately setting into alarm the entire Home Fleet. In that moment a dramatic prosecution started, which would end with the sinking of the Bismarck when she was at little less than 400 miles west of Brest. When the Bismarck, hit by Swordfish torpedo bombers, had her rudders blocked she was forced to turn around without being able to maneuver. Practically immobilized, the superb battleship was totally dismantled by the artillery fire from British battleships and cruisers.


The Bismarck is shown as she was shortly before her last mission, with fire control radars for aiming her artillery and a stripped camouflage scheme painted in the early 1941, which was replaced in May of the same year by a totally grey scheme. The Prinz Eugen is shown as she was in 1941-1942, with a stripped camouflage scheme and the extra anti-aircraft cannons installed in February 1942. Like the Bismarck, the Prinz Eugen had a swastika painted in the forecastle deck for the purpose of aerial reconnaissance.

The Bismarck (Bismarck class)

The forced interruption that Germany suffered regarding naval projects at the end of the First World War affected all the German ships during the Second World War. The naval architects could not benefit from the lessons learned between 1914 and 1918. They were not able to give continuity to their experience in designing, essential for the creation of new projects, nor to extract conclusions from the destruction of ships built by other countries, as the Allies had done in the early 1920s. Because of this, the experts in naval construction began to work in the late 1920s with a considerable disadvantage in respect of the other nations. However, it was wanted that the new battleship were superior to any foreign contemporary warship, the largest part of which were backed by a decade of research and development that the German did not have. Besides, they did not have time to catch up. Consequently, the Bismarck and the Tirpitz were poorly protected ships with problems in their communication systems and deficiencies in the disposition of their secondary and anti-aircraft armament. And this despite having a displacement that exceeded the limitations imposed by any former treaty, about which Hitler was not longer concerned.

The technical studies about battleships started in 1933 and the Anglo-German Naval Treaty, signed the 18th June 1935, provided Germany with enough supplementary tonnage for building three battleships of 35,560 tonnes of standard displacement. The contracts for the construction of two of them were signed at the beginning of 1936. Facing this emergency situation, the German naval architects used as basis for the new battleships the Baden class from the First World War. It was necessary to increase the size to satisfy the new requirements: increase of speed of six knots, large increment of anti-aircraft artillery and installation of anti-torpedo armored protection. This latter was favored by keeping the draught as short as possible, due to the agitated waters of the German coasts. As in the Japanese battleships of the Yamato class, the result was to increase the width of the hull to allow the installation of an excellent anti-torpedo system.


The Bismarck just after being delivered by the Blom und Voss naval shipyards; note the missing fire control station in the fore superstructure.

Albeit the result of these efforts was an undoubtedly powerful battleship, the Bismarck was not as much as she should have been. The difficulties in the research of the protection caused that the communication systems (electrical and other conduction systems) were left practically unprotected at the bottom of the belt armor, whereas the contemporary battleships of other nations had them installed between the upper part of the belt and the armor of the main deck. This deficiency contributed to the quick and easy destruction of the Bismarck. The same deficiency in the protection of the rudders which prevented the Bismarck from escaping to her fate had come to light in the German ships already in the Battle of Jutland, twenty-five years before. The lack of research of dual-purpose secondary armament led the Bismarck to have separated anti-ship and anti-aircraft artillery, rendering her unnecesarily large. The lack of research caused as well that the German armor did not surpass the American or the British one. Her conning tower, theoretically protected against the projectiles fired by battleships, was mowed down by a 203-millimeter projectile at the beginning of the last confrontation. Besides, too many German projectiles did not explode. Only one, which hit the Prince of Wales, exploded.

Still, the design had positive traits. Fire control was excellent in general, especially that of anti-aircraft artillery. Besides, she had been fitted with fire control radars for aiming her long-range artillery. She was also extremely difficult to sink (albeit this was less important than the easiness of putting her out of action). She did not sink until her crew used special explosive charges to scuttle her and the Dorsetshire launched her torpedoes against her.

The Tirpitz differentiated from the Bismarck mainly in having a longer operational range, cranes in different position, slightly modified masts, upgraded radars and fire control mountings, torpedo launchers and increased anti-aircraft armament. The Tirpitz was launched the 1st April 1939 in the Wilhelmshaven naval shipyards and completed the 25th February 1941, six months later than the Bismarck. She was severely damaged by British midget submarines the 22nd September 1943 and was never properly repaired. She survived several attacks but was finally sunk near Tromso by the 5.6-ton bombs that fell over her.


The battleship Bismarck as she looked like just before her final sortie. The stripped camouflage scheme shown in this picture, intended to break the silhouette of the ship to distant observers, was painted in 1941 but replaced in May of the same year by an all-grey scheme. There was also a swastika painted in the forecastle deck for aerial reconnaissance.



Class: Bismarck (Bismarck and Tirpitz)

Built in: Blohm und Voss Shipyards, Hamburg

Authorized: 1935

Keel laid: 1 July 1936

Launched: 14 February 1939

Completed: 24 August 1940

Fate: Sunk on 27 May 1941

Length (in waterline): 241.5 meters

Length (total): 251 meters

Beam: 36 meters

Draught: 9 meters

Displacement (standard): 42,344 tonnes

Displacement (normal): 45,951 tonnes

Displacement (full load): 50,996 tonnes

Engines: Twelve Wagner boilers; Blohm und Voss steam turbines of simple reduction; three propellers

Power (total): 150,170 shaft horsepower

Fuel load: 7461 tonnes

Speed (maximum): 30.1 knots

Operational range: 9280 nautical miles at 16 knots

Armor: 145-323 millimeters in main belt; 50 millimeters in upper deck; 30 millimeters in main deck; 80-120 millimeters in armored deck; 130-360 millimeters in main turrets; 220 millimeters in barbettes; 20-100 millimeters in secondary turrets

Armament: Eight 380-millimeter 47-caliber cannons (4 x 2); twelve 150-millimeter 55-caliber cannons (6 x 2); sixteen 105-millimeter 65-caliber anti-aircraft cannons (8 x 2); sixteen 37 millimeters anti-aircraft cannons (8 x 2); twelve 20-millimeter anti-aircraft cannons (12 x 1); six reconnaissance aircraft

Complement: 2092


April-May 1941: In the Baltic Sea.

18 May 1941: Navigation alongside the Prinz Eugen during Operation Rheinubung.

23 May 1941: Sighted by the British heavy cruisers Suffolk and Norfolk.

24 May 1941: Battle of Denmark Strait; the Bismarck sank the battlecruiser Hood and mildly damaged the battleship Prince of Wales, which in turn hit her thrice; the Prinz Eugen left and the Bismarck was hit by a torpedo launched by an aircraft from the aircraft carrier Victorious, receiving mild damages; she finally managed to escape from the prosecutors.

26-27 May 1941: Nocturnal attack from British destroyers which caused no damage.

27 May 1941: Attacked by the British battleships King George V and Rodney; sunk by torpedoes from the British cruiser Dorsetshire.

The Prinz Eugen (Admiral Hipper class)

Until 1935 the Versailles Treaty signed after the First World War had greatly limited the German warship construction, but that same year the Anglo-German Naval Treaty allowed Germany to build up to a 35 percent of the total tonnage of the Royal Navy. This was enough to build up to five cruisers in compliance with the conditions set by the Washington Treaty. Consequently, the keels of the cruisers of the Admiral Hipper class were laid down. However, Germany was more interested in building powerful ships than in respecting the limits set by an international treaty, so the ships of the Admiral Hipper class considerably exceeded the limit of 10,160 tonnes. The initial projects were prepared in 1934 parallely with those for the Bismarck class. The new cruisers were specifically intended for counteracting the French heavy cruisers and preventing the maritime supply from North Africa to France.

The Admiral Hipper, first ship of the class, was completed with the straight stem and the uncrowned funnel which were typical of the German projects previous to the Second World War. Her prow was later modified with a clipper bow and her funnel crowned. She also received another two anti-aircraft directors. The Blucher, second ship of the class, was sunk before undergoing any modification, but she had the clipper bow and the funnel's crown installed after being launched. The Prinz Eugen, third ship of the class, had a slightly longer hull and she was completed with a clipper bow, a crowned funnel and four anti-aircraft directors. All the ships on the class had a bulging hull fitted with a bow sonar. They were fitted as well with a powerful torpedo armament.

These ships were designed after the largest part of countries had left the construction of cruisers armed with 203-millimeter cannons. They were superior in many aspects to the first French cruisers limited by the Washington Treaty but they would have faced difficulties against those of the Algerie class, which were smaller but better armored. And they were definitely inferior to the American cruisers of the Baltimore class, which had a heavier armament and a thicker armor, and carried more aircraft. An unfortunate characteristic of the project was its relatively short operational range, which along with the unrealiable machinery posed a great disadvantage in the utilization against the mercantile convoys, despite the extensive system of fuel tanks that the German built in the Atlantic. Apart from this, they were very well adapted for operating on their own due to their powerful main armament and very well controlled anti-aircraft battery.

After the signing of the Russo-German Pact in 1939 it was proposed to Russia to exchange the three last ships of the class (which had not been yet completed) for raw materials. However, only that which was farther from completion (the Lutzow) was transferred. The Prinz Eugen, as we know, was finally completed as she had been designed. It was proposed to convert the Seydlitz, fourth ship of the class, into an aircraft carrier. Germany had already launched the Graf Zeppelin of 23,570 tonnes of standard displacement and laid down the keel of her twin, but it was not appreciated the vital importance of an integral air force in the sea, so the construction continued in an intermittent way. When the loss of the Bismarck made clear the importance of a seaborne air force, the work in the Graf Zeppelin was retaken and the transformation of the Seydlitz started. However, since the Allies achieved a too large superiority in the sea none of them was completed.

The Admiral Hipper took part in operations in Norway and in the Atlantic, and remained in the Baltic Sea from 1944. She was damaged during an aerial attack the 3rd May 1945 and subsequently scuttled by her own crew. The Blucher had a really short career, as she was sunk in the fjord of Oslo by the Norwegian coastal defenses the 9th April 1940, while carrying an invasion force onboard. Neither the Seydlitz (whose hull was rescued by the Russian) nor the Lutzow were completed and both were later scrapped. After being abandoned her conversion into an aircraft carrier, which had started in 1942, the Seydlitz was eventually scuttled the 29th January 1945. After having been sold to Russia in 1940, where she was renamed "Petropavlovsk" and later "Tallinn", the Lutzow was scrapped circa 1950.


The heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen with the camouflage scheme used in 1941-42, the additional light anti-aircraft cannons installed in February 1942 and an Arado 196 seaplane in the catapult. There was also a swastika painted in the forecastle deck for aerial reconnaissance.


Class: Admiral Hipper (Admiral Hipper, Blucher and Prinz Eugen)

Built in: Germania Shipyards, Kiel

Authorized: 1936

Keel laid: 1936

Launched: 22 August 1938

Completed: 1 August 1940

Fate: Sunk on 22 December 1947

Length (in waterline): 199.5 meters

Length (total): 210.4 meters

Beam: 21.9 meters

Draught: 7.9 meters

Displacement (standard): 14,707 tonnes

Displacement (normal): 16,490 tonnes

Displacement (full load): 18,694 tonnes

Engines: Twelve Wagner boilers; Brown-Boveri steam turbines of simple reduction; three propellers

Power (total): 132,000 shaft horsepower

Fuel load: 4320 tonnes

Speed (maximum): 33.4 knots

Operational range: 6500 nautical miles at 18 knots

Armor: 70-80 millimeters in main belt; 12-30 millimeters in upper deck; 20-50 millimeters in armored deck; 70-105 millimeters in main turrets

Armament: Eight 203-millimeter cannons (4 x 2); twelve 105-millimeter anti-aircraft cannons (6 x 2); twelve 37-millimeter anti-aircraft cannons (6 x 2); eight 20-millimeter anti-aircraft cannons (8 x 1), increased to twenty-eight (5 x 4 plus 8 x 1) in January 1942; twelve 533-millimeter torpedo tubes (4 x 3); three reconnaissance aircraft

Complement: 1600


August-December 1939: Negotiations for being sold to Russia.

1-2 July 1940: Hit by two bombs.

23 April 1941: Damaged by a mine.

18 May 1941: Navigation alongside the Bismarck during Operation Rheinubung.

23 May 1941: Pursued by the British heavy cruisers Suffolk and Norfolk; the Prinz Eugen placed herself before the Bismarck.

1 June 1941 - 11 February 1942: In Brest.

11-13 February 1942: In the English Channel alongside the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau; caused damages to the British destroyer Worcester.

21-23 February 1942: Toward Norway.

23 February 1942: Hit by a torpedo launched from the British submarine Trident, which caused severe damages in the stern.

February-March 1942: Emergency reparations in Norway.

May-October 1942: Definitive reparations in Kiel; installation of a new stern.

May 1943 - May 1944: In the School Fleet.

June 1944 - April 1945: Gave land support during the operations in the Baltic.

April 1945: Toward Copenhagen.

4 May 1945: Surrendered in Copenhagen.

13 December 1945: Transferred to United States.

January 1946: Toward United States.

17 June 1946: Used as target ship for nuclear tests in the Bikini Atoll.

22 December 1947: Sunk in Kwajalein Atoll.

The Bismarck in action

The Bismarck was the most powerful unit of the Kriegsmarine. When she went into the Atlantic in May 1941, she was such a threat for the British navigation routes that the Admiraty had to concentrate all the available resources for sinking her.

The German battleship Bismarck had a very short career; from her commissioning to her destruction only nine months passed, of which eight were spent on training. Alongside her peer, the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, she departed the 20th May 1941 from the Baltic Sea setting course to Bergen. Her target was the disorganization of the British convoy system in the North Atlantic; the dispersion of the British efforts would contribute to cut the flow of embarkations from United States to Great Britain. The German did not know that the British had detected their departure, through intelligence reports transmitted from Sweden and the analysis of the radioelectric communications set between Kiel and Bergen. The first evidence that Admiral Lutjens had about the British preparations came the 23rd May, when his force was detected in the Denmark Strait by the heavy cruiser HMS Suffolk.

Despite the efforts for eluding her, this ship and another cruiser, the HMS Norfolk, remained on her trail and during the morning of the 24th May the battlecruiser HMS Hood and the new battleship HMS Prince of Wales got in contact with the German formation. At 05:32 o'clock the Hood opened fire upon the Prinz Eugen at a distance of 24,225 meters and the Prince of Wales followed soon after. The German ships replied at 05:35 o'clock, but both upon the heading ship, the Hood. A 203-millimeter projectile from the Prinz Eugen started a fire on the armored deck of the Hood and at 06:00 o'clock the fifth salvo from the Bismarck squarely hit her. One minute later the powder magazines of the Hood exploded; she was destroyed and almost her whole crew disappeared. The fire was then directed upon the Prince of Wales, which was hit seven times, one of them on the compass platform. But, despite there was no one left in the bridge, excepting the wounded or dead commander, she withdrew and hit the Bismarck with two or three 356-millimeter projectiles. The surviving officers ordered to break contact. The Rear Admiral took the command of the two cruisers, for the Prince of Wales was not in condition of continuing the action.

Admiral Lutjens had then two options: to return to Bergen to repair the damages suffered in the fuel tanks of the Bismarck, caused by two hits from the Prince of Wales under the waterline, or to continue toward the North Atlantic. So convinced must have he been that his ship was indestructible that he chose the second option, despite the surprise element had disappeared, almost a third part of the fuel had been lost and almost 2000 tonnes of water had entered onboard. Later the British and American studies about the German tactics drew attention upon the thoughtless decision from the German Admiral when trying to effectuate a sortie on the North Atlantic under such conditions.

With the speed diminished to 28 knots and one paralyzed boiler room, Lutjens realized about the mistake incurred and, instead of returning, he set course to Brest. The Prinz Eugen was short of fuel and she was ordered to act independently. On the following sunset, the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious sent a wave of Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers. These aircraft were not appropriate for attack missions, but the refusal from the RAF to deliver a squadron of Albacore made that those were the only torpedo bombers available on the Home Fleet. At midnight the nine biplanes found their target and managed to hit her with a torpedo on the amidships, where the armor belt was enough for preventing the small warhead from causing a great damage. That night the Bismarck managed to evade the radar contact from the Norfolk and the Suffolk, which had followed her at maximum distance. However, the bad luck continued stalking the Bismarck for Lutjens believed that he was still being pursued by radar. He sent a long communication to Germany which provided the British direction-finder radio stations the location that they needed. The RAF Coastal Command sent a Consolidated Catalina seaplane to explore in the corresponding sector and the Bismarck was sighted approximately at 10:30 o'clock the 26th May. The sighting took place in the appropriate moment, for the Home Fleet had misinterpreted the signals from the direction finders and had set course to the wrong direction.

The Bismarck detected

In the morning of the 26th May a Catalina effectuated the crucial sighting, but the distance between the Bismarck and her prosecutors was then so long that it was possible that the German battleship reached the coast of Brittany, and once she were under the cover of the coast-based fighter aircraft the British could not take the risk of intercepting her. The only hope of stopping her escape was a torpedo bomber attack from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, which coming from Gibraltar was approaching alongside the battlecruiser HMS Renown and the cruiser HMS Sheffield as escort. The Ark Royal launched her first attack with fifteen Swordfish at 14:50 o'clock, but the aircraft mistook the Sheffield with their target.

The tragedy was avoided only because the magnetic torpedo fuzes did not work when launched on such a strong swell; some exploded when hitting the water and the Sheffield managed to dodge the rest. The incident turned to be an advantage when the Sheffield communicated with the Ark Royal and the second wave fixed the mistake, by using Duplex fuzes programmed on "contact". Around 20:30 o'clock the Swordfish found the true Bismarck and this time they knew that they were not committing a mistake, as they were greeted by a deluge of anti-aircraft projectiles. The biplanes flew at an almost suicidal altitude above the waves and sometimes it seemed like they were going to crash against the superstructure, but their courage was rewarded by two torpedo impacts. One hit the amidships, causing little damage, but the second hit the stern and blocked the rudders.

This impact sentenced the Bismarck, for from that moment her course turned to be erratic and she had to use her propellers to govern herself. First she headed to the northeast, toward the Home Fleet, while her engineers franctically tried to unblock the rudders and the ship was turned with great effort to the right course. That night a force of British and Polish destroyers effectuated a torpedo attack which interrupted the works and the whole crew of the German battleship knew that only some hours remained for the last battle. The next morning, the battleships from the Home Fleet, the flagship HMS King George V and the HMS Rodney, appeared in the horizon. At 08:47 o'clock the Rodney fired the first salvo. The Bismarck replied, managing to pinpoint the aim on her second salvo, but the 406-millimeter projectiles from the Rodney pinpointed on the third and fourth salvos, and a hit put out of action the "Anton" fore turret of the Bismarck. In fact, the inexpert gunner crews onboard the Rodney did not fire fast enough and their subsequent fire arrived more oblique, so the Commander in Chief, Admiral Sir John Tovey, ordered that the ship approached to 3650 meters or less while he moved the flagship at a distance of 12,800 meters, where her parabolic salvos of 356-millimeter projectiles had more chances to penetrate the decks of the enemy battleship. This avalanche of fire silenced the Bismarck in half an hour and at 09:20 o'clock only one rear turret was still firing on its own. The impacts had destroyed the fire control center, fires had taken place under the deck and the communications with the engine room and the compartments located under the decks had been lost.

Challenging to the end

Paradoxically, the damage was so extensive that it difficulted the sinking of the ship. The armored deck of the Bismarck was very low to provide protection against artillery projectiles fired from long distances. Circa 09:30 o'clock the ship was so flooded that the largest part of British projectiles crossed her from one side to the other. In later years it was created the myth that the armor of the German battleship was never pierced and that she sank only because she was scuttled, but the testimony from the survivors in the reports from the Admiralty indicates that the British projectiles caused huge internal damages and that all the communication with the personnel under the armored decks was impossible after thirty minutes.

Both the King George V and the Rodney were short of fuel after the long chase, so the heavy cruiser Dorsetshire received the order of sinking the Bismarck with torpedoes. At 10:15 o'clock two 533-millimeter "tin fish" were launched against the starboard side and later, at 10:35 o'clock, another one against the larboard side. The Bismarck began to list slowly and sank on her stern after five minutes. Her flag waved until the end, for Admiral Lutjens, Captain Lindemann and practically the whole crew sank with her. Rescue operations immediately began, but they were suspended due to fear to attacks from submarines, and only 115 men survived from a total of 2192.

The HMS Hood

During the interwar period and until being sunk by the German battleship Bismarck, the 24th May 1941, the battlecruiser HMS Hood was one of the most precious jewels of the Royal Navy. Her sinking near the coasts of Greenland elicited wishes for revenge.

In 1914, the restrictions to the size of the British capital ships imposed by the dimensions of the existing drydocks were overcome and thus it was possible to design larger ships. A certain number of different combinations for armament, armor and speed was considered, but at the end of 1915 the Admiralty chose a design with the same main armament than the Queen Elizabeth class, consisting of eight 381-millimeter cannons, but with a comparatively lighter armor and a speed of 33 knots. For this project four ships were ordered, albeit even before the Battle of Jutland it became clear that the protection was inadequate. To the final project, ordered in 1916, 5100 tonnes were added to improve the protection.

When the Hood was completed she was the larger and most powerful ship in the Royal Navy. She was fitted with an inclined main belt which provided protection equivalent to that of a thicker vertical armor, typical of the contemporary British battleships. She had also horizontal and submarine protection. Albeit a thicker armor on a smaller surface, for the same weight, would have provided an even better protection, the Hood was well armored for that time. The utilization of small-tube boilers allowed to develop almost a 30 percent more power from machinery of the same weight than that used on the battlecruisers of the Renown class, fitted with boilers of larger tubes. The blueprints of the Hood were shown to the American circa the end of the First World War and they notably influenced the subsequent designs.

Circa 1917 it was obvious that Germany was focusing in submarines, at expenses of the battlecruisers of the Mackensen class, so the construction of the Anson, the Howe and the Rodney, sisters of the Hood, was suspended and later cancelled. Under the light of war experience it was understood that better projects could have been prepared. However, it was decided to complete the Hood mainly for the purpose of acquiring experience with a large and very fast ship, and for testing the inclined armor and the new underwater protection system, which used tubes inside the bulges to absorb the damage caused by torpedoes. If the construction of the Anson, the Howe and the Rodney had been completed those ships would have been very different from the Hood. Improved armor, modified hull and superstructures, as well as funnels much closer to each other, had been designed for them. When they were cancelled only a three or four percent of the whole construction had been completed.

In 1939 it was intended to rebuild the Hood in a way similar to the Queen Elizabeth and the Renown, because her anti-aircraft armament and horizontal protection were not adequate. Her 140-millimeter and 102-millimeter cannon mountings should have been replaced by 133-millimeter dual-purpose twin mountings. The horizontal protection should have been increased. The vertical armor and the underwater protection were to be reinforced as well. The armored conning tower and the fore superstructure were to be replaced by a tower bridge, and the rest of the superstructure was to be modified. It was also intended to install a new machinery. All of these modifications would have required two years at least, and the war treaty was too wide to allow such an important unit to be out of service for such a long time.

The appearance of the Hood was impressive and thus she was widely used as flagship during the interwar period. She was characterized by her excellent navigability, but the extra armor added to the final design was a ballast which caused the hull to descend and the deck to be often flooded, especially under bad weather. Even so, the armor was suitable enough for short and medium distances only. However, the unfortunate battlecruiser was hit by five projectiles before completing her approach to the German battleship Bismarck. They could have penetrated into a storeroom, but they hit the torpedo deck instead and a huge explosion split the ship in half. There were only three survivors.


The battlecruiser HMS Hood as she looked like in May 1941, displaying the flag of the Vice Admiral (Holland) during the action against the Bismarck. Note the five Unrotated Projectile anti-aircraft mountings, installed on top the turret B and in other locations amidships.


Class: Admiral (Hood)

Built in: John Brown Shipyards, Clydebank

Authorized: 17 April 1916

Keel laid: 1 September 1916

Launched: 22 August 1918

Completed: 5 March 1920

Fate: Sunk the 24th May 1941

Length (in waterline): 246.8 meters

Length (total): 262.8 meters

Beam (in waterline): 29 meters

Beam (total): 34.5 meters

Draught: 10.2 meters

Displacement (standard): 42,770 tonnes

Displacement (full load): 46,940 tonnes

Engines: Twenty-four Yarrow small-tube boilers; Brown-Curtis steam turbines; four propellers

Power (total): 151,280 shaft horsepower (in 1920)

Fuel load (normal): 1220 tonnes

Fuel load (maximum): 4060 tonnes

Speed (maximum): 28.8 knots

Operational range: 5950 nautical miles at 18 knots (in 1920)

Armor: 127-305 millimeters in main belt; 127-152 millimeters in hull ends; 38 millimeters in forecastle deck; 19-25 millimeters in upper deck; 38-76 millimeters in main deck; 25-51 millimeters in lower deck

Armament: Eight 381-millimeter cannons (4 x 2); fourteen 102-millimeter cannons (7 x 2); twenty-four 40-millimeter anti-aircraft cannons (3 x 8); sixteen 12.7-millimeter machine guns (4 x 4); one hundred Unrotated Projectile anti-aircraft cannons (5 x 20); four 533-millimeter torpedo tubes (2 x 2)

Complement: 1421


1920-1929: Atlantic Fleet and Home Fleet.

1923: Travel around the world alongside the Special Service Squadron.

May 1929 - May 1931: New installations in Portsmouth. Two 40-millimeter octuple mountings were installed, as well as one aircraft catapult astern.

1931-1936: In British waters.

September 1931: Involved in the Invergordon mutiny.

1933: The aircraft catapult was removed.

1936-1939: In the Mediterranean. Service in Spain, in neutral patrols.

1938: Installation of four 102-millimeter single mountings and one 40-millimeter octuple mounting. Two 140-millimeter single mountings were removed.

February-August 1939: New installations in Portsmouth. The 102-millimeter single mountings were replaced by four twin mountings.

August 1939 - March 1940: Home Fleet. Patrols in the North Sea and in the Atlantic.

26 September 1939: Hit by bombs from a German aircraft; no damages suffered.

November-December 1939: Temporally aggregated to the French squadron against the raids.

March-May 1940: New installations in Devonport. Three 102-millimeter twin mountings were added and the remaining 140-millimeter single mountings were removed.

June-August 1940: With the H Force in the Mediterranean.

3 July 1940: Bombardment of the French fleet in Mers-el-Kebir. Fifty-six 381-millimeter projectiles were fired. The battleships Provence and Dunkerque were severely damaged. The battleship Bretagne was sunk.

August 1940 - January 1941: Home Fleet. Patrols in the North Sea and in the Atlantic.

Spring of 1941: New installations in Rosyth. A radar is installed.

21 May 1941: Departed from Scapa Flow alongside the battleship Prince of Wales to intercept the German battleship Bismarck.

24 May 1941: Action against the Bismarck. Sunk by the Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen.

Related articles

The hunt for the Bismarck

The fate of the Admiral Graf Spee

The fate of the Scharnhorst

Categories: Ships - Naval Warfare - World War Two - 20th Century - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-10-21

Article updated: 2020-10-30

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